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Amanda's Garden Agenda

 Amanda's Garden 

 Words to guide, inspire and entertain  


Put It To Bed

Friday, December 14, 2012

I know, I know, it’s not the really fun part. And you got busy with the impending holiday season and there are the dead lily tops, scraggly roses, spent chrysanthemums, dead tomato vines…. Frozen deck planters… it’s no wonder people quickly find something else to do!

Well, pick a section at a time, and just work for an hour. Listen to music, and always force loved ones to help. General rule: if it’s still green, leave it alone; if it’s yellow or gray, cut/lop it short. If it’s an annual, as my landscaper partner used to trill: KILL IT! Pull it up and hopefully compost it, or give it to your township to compost.

Beautiful frost coverd tree branches.

Most things prefer to be pruned after the first big frost. Pruning actually encourages growth, so make sure the plants are sleeping before you prune down for the winter. More on techniques later…. There are a thousand references for specific methods available on line, or in your library. Picture books are great anyway!

Amanda Bennett

photo: Amanda Bennett,

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If You’ve Finished Eating, Then Wash Your Bowl

Friday, November 23, 2012

Being an avid gardener, and also a junkie for nice tools, not just outside but in my kitchen where a rack of wonderful old knives turn food prep into pleasure, it surprises me what some garden folks do [or don’t do] with their implements of destruction: shovels, spades, loppers, nips, hoes, rakes….

Grape Hyacinth poking up through snow.

Hand tools get the most mileage for the regular backyard gardener. I don’t have much space myself, and every inch of soil I can turn over, aerate, and crowd with plants is important, so my tools are important. Dull, dirty, bent or otherwise mangled tools make the job frustrating and the results sloppy, but it’s not very hard to maintain a tool. Here are some simple steps:

  1. Clean them up. Generally, water is bad for steel, but getting dirt or sap or general ick off just needs a rag, and a minute or two. For the little tools, like nips and trowels, a bit of machine oil applied after cleaning keeps the steel nice. If you really need to use water, dry the tool thoroughly before putting it away.
  2. Keep them safe. Don’t leave your tools out. This seems almost idiotic but I have so many times just laid my precious nips down on the deck, forgotten them, left them in the rain, and rusted them. Then out come oil and rags and screwdrivers and a lot of time on my part. [Perhaps some swearing.]
  3. Sharpen them.  A dull shovel makes the job much harder. It’s more natural to think of tools with blades as needing sharpening, but the bottom of the shovel is a blade too. Machine oil and a sharpening stone [both at your local hardware store] are all you need. Practice on things like shovels first, until you get the hang of angle and such, before proceeding to precision tools like compound loppers. Shovels are very forgiving, and if you make them dull first you can always sharpen them again. They are peaceable souls.
  4. Tighten them up. Even a lowly leaf rake has a screw or two to attach the handle to the base, and things get loose with time. The tool suffers and finally breaks, which always seems to happen to me in the exact middle of a job. Grrrrr. Check out the sleeves on your trowels and shovels, and make sure they are still firmly imbedded. If a wooden handle comes loose from a steel base, there are marvelous glues like Gorilla Glue to re-secure them.

This might seem like a lot of work and sweat added onto your happy digging and planting, but a good tool gets better with time, becomes used to you, and grows into a lovely old friend. There’s nothing nicer than a well-worn handle in your hand.

Amanda Bennett

photo: Debbie Schiel,

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Damn the English

Friday, November 16, 2012

I’ll skip the profanity [here on the page anyway] and just say that the man who imported ‘English ivy’ should burn in Dante’s 9th circle for all eternity. All my neighbors have this #%$@%^* plant. I can feel it growing when I look at it. It pokes its horrid tendrils up out of my good black earth; it covers my Kentucky colonel mint [that just shows you what a hellish plant it is that it can overcome mint!!!] it puts its parasitic rootlets into my red maple and sucks its blood. Nothing will kill it; when I was a landscaper we rented a flamethrower [you can rent anything] in a fit of rage and torched a bunch… it must have enjoyed it because it came back so green and disgustingly healthy. Do you suppose that loving-kindness might make it die? Anyone who can love it please tell me if theirs looks sickly or anything.

Amanda Bennett

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Soft-heartedness and the cruel facts of indoor plants

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

This is a shorty post to reassure you all. I have a lot of indoor plants, from fruit trees to lowly philodendrons, and there’s a fact that must be brought into the open: sometimes they must die for the good of the herd.

Don’t say this aloud to your plants, but they can be replaced, you know. Garden centers actually sell them! If repotting, feeding, love and insecticidal soap fails, it’s time for a graceful death and a nice new plant. Hmmmm. What don’t I have?

Amanda Bennett

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